The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Friday that most of the nation’s national parks will be closed and off limits to the public if the federal government shuts down, upending travel plans for millions of visitors. Most popular places in the country.
“Gates will be locked, visitor centers will be closed and thousands of park rangers will be laid off,” the agency said in a statement, announcing its plans to halt operations at hundreds of sites, from icons like Yosemite to modest historic sites.
Parks and the cities and businesses that rely on them have been forced to close as Congress nears a Sept. 30 deadline to keep the federal government running. At least 10 far-right Republicans firmly oppose even a temporary measure that would allow the government to continue operating.
Not all parks will be closed. State and local governments that want to operate specific parks can do so if they pay the federal government, the interior ministry said. The price for local leaders — typically tens of thousands of dollars a day — is a bargain compared to the tourism spending that national parks generate.
The governors of Arizona and Utah have already said they plan to pay to keep the gates open at parks including the Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches and Bryce Canyon.
In previous shutdowns, New York and several states have paid to reopen attractions including Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore. Whether they will do the same this time is not known.
The Biden administration’s decision to close parks to visitors during the shutdown, which began in December 2018, prompted former President Donald J. That’s a departure from Trump’s decision to keep open, but largely unstaffed. This led to lasting damage, park officials said. Poaching, graffiti, defecating in parking lots and trails, and illegal road traffic in sensitive desert terrain.
The Ministry of Interior oversees more than 400 national park sites employing 20,000 workers.
Agency officials said places such as the National Mall and the outdoor memorials in Washington will continue to be open to the public. Those gates were removed during a shutdown a decade ago.